BE THE GUY YOU WOULD'VE LOOKED UP TO AS A KID: Charlie "The Spaniard" Brenneman


Like many people, Charlie "The Spaniard" Brenneman found himself unfulfilled with his everyday job. While most would look to move

to a different company to get a better job, he did something completely different. That’s because Charlie Brenneman isn’t like the rest of us. We begin the fourth season of Your Corner Man with “The Spaniard”, as I sit down with the man who left his Spanish teaching job for the Octagon. The former MMA fighter tells me how he decided to step out of the classroom to dive headfirst into a sport he knew nothing about and “get his butt kicked” by the likes of UFC stars Frankie Edgar and Eddie Alvarez. Brenneman is a fascinating study in getting the most out of your life and taking advantage of a work ethic that won’t quit. We dive in to how his wrestling background gave him perspective on how to deal with a loss, how it ultimately helped him make the leap to combat sports, the commitment it took to train the way he needed to, and what he sees for his future. He discusses how his unique background in teaching and in sports helps him as a speaker for students, his aspirations for his own life and how he wants to live it, what led up to him writing two books so far, and what he wants for his own kids. Charlie is a well-grounded man whose life can provide motivation for those in the boardroom, the classroom, or the ring. This talk certainly is full of plenty of lessons of perseverance and will power. It’s hard not to be inspired by his goals in life and what he’s already accomplished.


  • Being able to overcome self-doubt is hard and can take a lot out of you but doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try.

  • How you respond to something negative that happens to you will tell a lot to those around you.

  • Remember someone who helped you at your lowest and try to be there for people who may be experiencing similar instances in their lives.

  • Being happy for those succeeding around you speaks volumes about your development.

  • You can develop the trait of feeling joy for others. Being a sore loser can be worked passed.

  • Life changes can be scary and making big decisions in the workplace can have consequences. But if you believe in your gut that it’s the right move, you can follow that path more confidently.

  • People that you recognize as the best at what they do are extremely valuable to learn from.

  • It’s very noticeable to others when you’re accountable and you work hard. It can only help you going forward.

  • Wanting something and being willing to pay the price are two completely different things.

  • Take what you’ve learned from teachers and coaches and put those lessons back into the world.

  • Surround yourself with the right people to help you succeed. You will, in turn, help them succeed as well.

Charlie Brenneman Career Accomplishments

  • 19-8 MMA record (5 KO, 5 submission, 9 decision)

  • CFFC Lightweight Championship, ROC Welterweight Championship, VFL Welterweight Championship

  • Winner of first season of Pros vs. Joes

  • Host: The Spaniard Show

  • Author: Driven: My Unlikely Journey from Classroom to Cage and Becoming the World’s Toughest Lifelong Learner

Key Conversation Takeaways

  • 3:13: How his childhood in wrestling led to his MMA career

  • 7:07: Learning from his dad and picking the right people to look up to while absorbing as much as he could from them

  • 10:44: What did he learn from his state championship wrestling matches

  • 16:00: Gaining the perspective of being okay with a loss or invoking joy from seeing others succeed

  • 21:10: Transitioning from post-grad life to UFC fighter

  • 25:10: Training with Frankie Edgar and driving three hours to “get his butt kicked”

  • 33:54: His aspirations for his everyday life and for how people will perceive him

  • 39:35: His post-fighting career and what he sees for his future

  • 45:12: What led to him writing his two books

Notable Quotes

  • 6:11: “You learn how to ride a bike. Well, here’s wrestling. You learn how to wrestle.”

  • 8:33: “I would always look up to guys I wanted to be like and I made a habit, which I still do today, of getting around them, learning from them, being around them, being with them, stepping on the mat with them, stepping anywhere I can with them to feel their energy and their presence and their being.”

  • 9:55: (On losing twice in the wrestling state championships in high school) “It taught me about getting up. I’ve fought on TV. I’ve got knocked out on TV. All this big notoriety stuff. But those losses, in that gym, in Hershey, PA, when I was 17 and 18, they cut as hard as anything. Probably more important than enjoying the winning was learning how to lose and having your heart broken and getting back up again.”

  • 11:40: “There is a supportive person out there for anybody. I don’t care who you are, where you’re from, and what you’re trying to do. There are people out there.”

  • 15:43: (Talking to an athlete after a loss) “I tell them, ‘However you’re feeling right now is normal. We’ll sort it out over time.’”

  • 17:30: “You gotta want to win more than anything in the world to be the best. But at the same time, we’re telling you to balance joy and happiness for someone else winning and you not winning. It’s a contradiction or it’s a dichotomy that is just something you’ve got to work through.”

  • 19:15: “If you’ve given your best, you can live with the outcome far better.”

  • 21:30: “I went on a whole new path that was as foreign to me as anything. I’m not a naturally aggressive fighter type person. I’m scared to death of getting in trouble. Don’t want to hurt people. Don’t want to get hurt. But I just saw fighting as a path to the freedom type lifestyle that I wanted.”

  • 24:38: “I’m the most conservative free-wheeling guy you’ve ever met.”

  • 32:53: “I think nothing’s cooler than, ‘Speak softly and carry a big stick.’ That to me is, I want to embody that.”

  • 33:33: “I want to be the guy that I would’ve looked up to as a kid.”

  • 37:15: “Credibility, to me, is huge. If you’re going to teach me something, I need to know that you know what you’re talking about.”

  • 41:32: “The lessons that I’m teaching a middle and high schooler are the same exact lessons that I would stand up on a stage and speak to a corporate audience about. It doesn’t change.”

  • 47:49: “I’m going to lead with openness. I’m going to lead with honesty.”